Jennifer Lockhart has the kind of voice that leaves you wondering why you don’t listen to opera music more often. I’m listening to her sing Ave Maria, and I’m marveling at the fact that this extraordinary voice belongs to an 10-year-old girl who has soccer practice this evening.
The Alta Vista student from Redondo Beach is just 10 years old, and already she is on her way to fulfilling her foremost dream: to sing opera professionally. Her sights are set on the Metropolitan Opera House, and her Paris-based voice teacher, established opera singer Karen Nimereala, believes she has “every chance” of getting there.
Nimereala has high hopes for Jennifer, whose voice she says will continue to “develop color as she gets older.”
Jennifer’s pitch goes as high as E-flat above a high C-note. Her father, who sang opera years ago, says this with pride.
“It’s funny,” John says when she’s finished. “People will come over and hug her after shows because they see what she’s got.”
Jennifer released, this summer, her first album, which she recorded in a private studio in Irvine. It is six tracks of classical Italian opera, with one exception: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Over the past two years, she has performed at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, downtown Disney, Harbor College, and the Pearson Park Amphitheater; once, she sung for 25,000 people at an event outside Dodger Stadium.
Jennifer, whose mother Pele is Samoan, belongs to the Pacific Talent Academy of the Arts (AOTA), an organization committed to showcasing Polynesian performing arts. Often Jennifer sings at events organized by AOTA.
At one of AOTA’s San Diego shows, Jennifer was approached by a radio host based in Long Beach, who asked her to sing on air. At another, the headlining act, Lea Love, noticed her raw talent.
“When [Love] was leaving the stage she stopped and looked over and said, ‘You see that little girl – I can’t do what she does,’” John said.
Jennifer loves the spotlight, speaks confidently, and doesn’t find performing in public to be the least bit intimidating.
“I like seeing all those people out there,” she says. “It makes me really happy.”
Before her Dodger Stadium performance, she was nervous “until I saw all those people there.”
John noticed Jennifer had unusual talent when she was just seven years old.
Together, they were watching Sound of Music. When Jennifer sang along with Julie Andrew, John – in his youth, a trained tenor – was “startled.”
“My father was a professional singer, I sang and played classical guitar, and her grandmother was a pianist, but the music seems to all have culminated in her,” John said. “She’s a natural.”
He set to finding her a teacher with the experience and expertise to develop his daughter’s newfound talent and connected with Nimereala, who now trains Jennifer via Skype every week. To this day, teacher and student have not met in person.
Jennifer practices five days a week – vocal exercises and technique with Nimereala and father during the week, recording with accompanists on the weekends.
And while she can’t get enough of The Beach Boys, she sings primarily classical music. At just 10 years old, Jennifer is serious about her music and she refuses to compromise its integrity.
“I don’t change the key to suit my voice,” she said. “You don’t take the music of the great masters and change the key it was written in to a lower key so you can sing it. I sing things exactly as they were written by the composers.”
Her father is also serious about her music career; he intends to enroll her in Italian classes in order that she can learn the language of opera, and in piano lessons so she can perform in the absence of an accompanist.
This summer, Jennifer signed with International Model and Talent Agency, an organization dedicated to finding audition opportunities for its young performers. She is developing herself as a package deal, learning stunts and signing on for acting gigs in addition to singing.
In the midst of filming for a short movie called Worlds Apart, the director heard Jennifer sing offset. Almost immediately, she wrote a solo into the script.
“I put on Jennifer’s recording and the lady producing the film was so taken that she got her phone out and recorded it right there,” John said. “They ended up using her singing a Mozart aria in the film. The director said she couldn’t say no.”
To purchase her CD, visit www.jennylock.com. B